Commencement cancellation affects more than students

“I told you ma that because of everything going on in our world, my graduation was eventually going to get cancelled,” I say to my mom as my voice begins to crack from the tears I am holding back.

“Oh noooooo! I am so sorry mija,” my mother says. “Cry if you need to, please do,” she tells me.

“I know how important this was to you, I know how hard you have worked to get here, but I need you to understand that at the end of the day you have earned this degree whether you get to walk the stage or not and that the important thing here is to remain strong and to understand that your feelings are valid,” she reminds me as tears begin to run down her freckled cheeks.

As much as I wanted to break down and cry, I couldn’t. I grew numb, it was such an indescribable feeling. Nothing broke my heart more than seeing my own mother in tears while still trying to hold me up.

I knew she was right in everything that she had said. This was my realistic tragedy. As the COVID-19 crisis grew worse and social distancing became more of a reality, I knew that this was coming. Was I prepared to face it? No. I don’t think anyone could be.

“The unfortunate reality here is that many folks like myself, who come from families with a rough past… will not be able to live and share this moment that they have worked so hard for due to the pandemic we are experiencing.”

I understand that it is for the best and for the safety of our people, I just truly wish this was not the reality we were all living in.

Being a first-generation student and the first to go off to college, I am not going to sit here and say that my college journey has been easy, because it hasn’t. It’s actually been quite difficult. It’s brought out some of my worst but also best traits and characteristics. It has tested my ability and patience.

More importantly it has turned me into a strong, passionate and independent woman. And even though many have told me to “just withdraw from the school year and finish off when you can walk the stage to graduate,” I don’t think that is the problem here.

The problem is actually deeper than that. The unfortunate reality here is that many folks like myself, who come from families with a rough past, whether that is being first-generation, a minority, low income, etc., will not be able to live and share this moment that they have worked so hard for due to the pandemic we are experiencing.

Even with countless struggles, in the blink of an eye, the pandemic took something so meaningful away from all of us.

The only reason I have even made it this far is because of the help and unconditional support from my parents. My parents did not come to this country to bring drugs or crime like our president likes to say. They for sure are not rapists either. My parents came to this country with nothing, but gave us everything. My immigrant parents crossed the border over several days in the hot sun with very little water in hopes of seeking a better life and future for their two girls. The two girls they were supposed to watch walk across the stage the weekend of May 16.

So, with that, I want to finish off by acknowledging anyone feeling hurt or even disappointed about commencement being cancelled due to the pandemic. You are not alone. Your feelings are valid, your sacrifices and hard work are not defined by whether a graduation ceremony happens or not. Your diploma is yours because you have earned it. I too feel you on this. #staystrong.

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